The California Nurses Association promised to fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to relax the state's landmark nurse-staffing law, which went into effect this year. Schwarzenegger's proposal, filed Thursday with the state Office of Administrative Law, would let emergency rooms temporarily surpass ratios during an unexpected flood of patients. It also seeks to delay for three years a plan to tighten the minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratio for medical-surgical units to one nurse for every five patients in 2005 from the current 1-6 ratio. The Office of Administrative Law has 10 days to accept or reject the proposal.
CNA spokesman Chuck Idelson said the proposal threatens patient safety and the union will file objections with the state office. Brenda Klutz, deputy director for licensing and certification at the California Department of Health Services, said the department believes the ratios have "been absolutely good for patient care" but wants time to study the consequences of the law before tightening the standards. She said the governor's proposal also clarifies a requirement that hospitals adhere to the ratios "at all times," saying nurses must be physically located on a unit to count. -- by Melanie Evans